Sun touts metering in utility push

Sun Microsystems Inc.'s vision of utility computing features a metering of systems that would account for low-usage patterns countered by spikes during peak times, a Sun official said on Monday.

Under Sun's vision, a customer would pay for server usage based on factors such as how many CPU cycles are being used, paying more during high-use times and less otherwise. Systems would be fitted to have an appropriate number of processors to accommodate spikes, said Jay Littlepage, vice president of Sun's internal IT operations. Hardware could be upgraded with more processors if needed.

Either a service provider such as Electronic Data Systems Corp. or Sun itself would monitor usage and provide billing services, Littlepage said. Billing also could be based on factors such as disk usage.

Calling utility computing an outgrowth of network computing, Sun is approaching utility computing as a way to pool resources of multiple servers, said Littlepage. Sun's N1 technology for pooling of resources would enable the utility vision, according to Littlepage.

"Utility computing is about treating (systems) as a virtual pool and being able to distribute processes so you don't have to provision a single server for a single application," Littlepage said.

"(Customers) don't have to have all that computing (capacity) sitting idle while waiting for the next seasonal rush," he said.

"There's an awful lot of excess capacity out there," Littlepage said.

Provisioning of services on other vendors' hardware would be included in Sun's utility computing mix.

Sun's utility computing program for billing based on CPU cycles will be rolled out first in Europe, followed by Asia and the rest of the world by this summer.

"We're taking baby steps right now. This will be a predominant way of buying resources and services in five years," Littlepage said.

Subsequent rollouts of utility services are expected to cover the provision of billing based on factors such as transactions, in which billing may be based, for example, on journal entries in an accounting system, said Littlepage.

Sun is conducting internally four pilot applications for utility systems, covering server consolidation; Web services monitoring via blade servers; usage of Sun's SunRayJavaCard systems for network services; and disk utilization, Littlepage said. Sun hopes to apply the findings of its internal projects to customer systems, he said.

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